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The Updated Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Goes Color But Isn’t Perfect

Four years since its original introduction, Wahoo’s Elemnt Bolt gets updated with many of the key features riders sought after in the more expensive Elemnt Roam. We test and review (and stumble with) the new device.

Review Rating


Basics

Wahoo maintains the sleek aerodynamic profile the Bolt is known for while adding enhancements that narrow the differences between the Roam and the Bolt.


Pros

Vivid color screen with ambient light sensor
Plenty of on-device storage
Programmable color-enhanced field displays

Cons

Aero benefits best with proprietary mount
Sensor compatibility
Less than smart smart navigation


Weight

68g

Price

$280

Brand

Wahoo


Wahoo continues to expand the Wahoo Fitness universe—from bike trainers, bike computers, heart-rate monitors, bike pedals (Speedplay), multisport watches, and accessories galore.  When used together, Wahoo provides a fully integrated training program for both on and off the road. This long-awaited update to the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is a welcome addition to the family.

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: The Basics

The Elemnt Bolt was the aero, yet more “affordable” of Wahoo’s two bike computer offerings—the other being the Roam. In order to achieve the lower price point over the Elemnt Roam, trade offs involved a monochromatic screen, basic navigation, and lower in-device storage. The new Bolt maintains the same aerodynamic design of the original Bolt, although it is slightly larger than its predecessor. To quickly compare the 2017 and 2021 Elemnt Bolt, below are some of the highlights:

Previous Gen Current Bolt
Unit Dimensions 2.9” x 1.8” 3.05” x 1.86”
Display Size 2.2“ 2.2” screen made of Gorilla Glass
Display Type Monochrome 64-bit fully adjustable color
Battery Charging Connection Micro USB USB-C
Navigation Advanced features through Elemnt companion app only On-device smart navigation, including smart elevation
Price $230 $280

Wahoo continues to produce their bike computers with soft, textured, easy-to-manipulate buttons. Yes, buttons. In an era of touch screen everything, buttons on a bike computer are welcomed—particularly buttons big enough for human hands that aren’t tucked behind the back or sides of the computer. Besides, the interface here on Wahoo’s Elemnt Bolt is simply too small for touch accuracy, and riders can also appreciate the ease of use with gloves during cold weather.

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: The Good

Wahoo continues to produce quality bike computers with just the right amount of features, in an easy and intuitive interface at a reasonable price point. Setup with any of Wahoo’s bike computers is as easy as it gets. For those that are not technically inclined, this is the computer for you (think Apple vs MS-DOS if you even remember what the latter is). Initial set up takes only a few minutes, which makes the anticipation of getting out on your first ride with your new toy manageable.

Like Wahoo’s Roam, the ambient light sensor automatically adjusts the backlight for optimum visibility—and it works fantastically. The screen is always easy to read and unaffected by light conditions. Another update along the lines of visibility is the changing color display in the heart rate and power zone fields feature. Through the Wahoo Elemnt app, your power zones and heart rate zones will be auto calculated based on your parameters and data, and then pushed to your Bolt. The display color in those data fields will change based upon the zone you are in. This feature is perfect for those athletes who like to train/race based on zones and need visual cues that are updated automatically. You no longer need to memorize your zone ranges or have to do complex math when in oxygen debt to find your zone. You simply glance at your screen to see your color to know if you are hitting your target.

The audible alerts are loud (though they could also be a distraction), and the bright LEDs on the top of the screen provide turn-by-turn directions, notify the rider of Strava Live segments, and provide notifications if set-up through the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt’s app.

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: The Not-So-Good

The benefits of the smaller, aerodynamic design of the Bolt are best achieved with the included proprietary bar mount. Although the device does come with a stem mount (attached with zip ties) and the proprietary out-front bar mount (for use with 31.8 round bars), triathletes who wish to mount this to any one-piece bar stem or aero/tri bars will have to purchase aftermarket mounts (such as those from K-Edge)—which is likely many people.

Although my test unit Bolt did pair up to my Power2Max power meter on one bike, and on screen appeared to pair to my Pioneer power meter on another bike, it would not work with my Pioneer. Before you exhaust yourself with comments: Yes, I changed the battery AND yes, I did use my Roam to rule out a power meter vs computer problem. The Roam worked fine, the Bolt did not. Although the on-unit Pioneer-specific data field did display, no data was ever picked up when using the new Bolt—giving me a screen full of n/a.

Sadly, the biggest disappointment came from the feature I was most excited to explore—the on-device smart navigation. When you are ready to embrace your inner Heather Jackson and set the tri bike aside to train on your gravel rig (hint, you should), this computer is excellent at grabbing both paved roads and trails to use as routes.  However, it was poor at actually tracking me on the route. I would get the “distance to next” cue message long after I was already on the correct street; often, I would get directions to turn onto a street I had already been traveling on.

On one test ride, I put a local hotel in for directions. Intentionally, I went off the recommended and loaded route in order to test the smart nav re-routing feature. I was within 1000m of the hotel and still received U-turn recommendations to take me back to the original route, as opposed to patching a more appropriate route to the end point—like advertised. If you have your alerts set up for both LED and audible, you will become annoyed at the constant backtalk from your Bolt telling you are going the wrong way. Back seat passenger driving at its worst!

That said, when the smart navigation and smart elevation was working, it was awesome. Seeing the elevation profile of your loaded route helps you mentally and physically prepare for the daunting climbs ahead. However, I was climbing a local 3-mile hill with a sustained 5-7% gradient, and although the percent grade indicated on the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt was accurate, and I was on the recommended street (not off route), my elevation profile—like a (very) bad EKG—was flatlined.

And then it all went dark..….no, no, I was fine. My Bolt went dark. Despite having over 80% charge, the unit turned off, then went through a ride recovery sequence—giving me how much I still had to do, all while I was (hopefully) still traveling on the correct route. When finally finishing the recovery, the route I was following was gone, not “recovered.” And clearly I still haven’t recovered since.

Conclusions

The updated Wahoo Elemnt Bolt has the potential to be a great addition to your arsenal of bike training devices. It works well with Wahoo’s Kickr bike trainer, pairs seamlessly with the Tickr, and in theory would easily migrate across your quiver of bicycles. Many, if not all, the problems I encountered with testing could have been a result of a bad beta test. However, the inaccuracy of the navigation and inability to pair with the Pioneer power meter leaves me questioning the build of the device, not the app itself. That said, I am optimistic that these issues will be resolved by an update from Wahoo, as my previous experiences with their devices have been excellent.